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Postby marty1499 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:07 am

How is it that 'acerbate' and 'exacerbate' mean the same thing, but are not listed as synonyms in the thesaurus? How come they mean the same thing?

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Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Feb 17, 2012 2:16 pm

English oddity? Flammable and inflammable.

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Postby Slava » Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:39 pm

I don't think they really mean quite the same thing. The ex of exacerbate is an intensifier. So, unless you have acerbated a situation or thing first, you can't exacerbate it.

So, acerbate means to make sour or bitter, while exacerbate means to complete the process and make something completely sour or bitter.

Let's say you're having a nice cocktail party and everyone's having a good time. Then some twit with an acerbic wit shows up. He acerbates the atmosphere. The situation is made worse, exacerbated, if someone tries to compete with the twit.

Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing because flammable was formed from inflammable because too many people thought the in meant "not". It doesn't, it comes from inflame.
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